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Feeding Hedgehogs

Home Forums Champions’ chat Feeding Hedgehogs

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    Was delighted to see a Hedgehog in my garden a few weeks ago. Apparently my neighbour had already seen it a few times. We guessed it lived in the woods behind our gardens and had found holes under our fences. I began putting out dog food and water. The dog food disappeared each night.
    We began looking after my sons cats today while he goes on holiday. Within minutes of being in our garden, the cat found a hedgehog hiding under a bush – no harm done the hedgehog is there asleep.
    I’m wondering though if I should cut down on the amount of food so it does not become too dependant on us and loses its wild life in the wood?

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    Hi Timothy

    So pleased to hear you have a hedgehog visiting your garden. I always think it is rather wonderful when a wild animal chooses to share our gardens with us.

    I think you are absolutely right to consider the hog’s wild life. What we feed should really only be supplementary. Ideally, it is best for the hedgehogs to be able to find their own wild food and for us to help them out when needed, i.e. if the weather is very dry, before and after hibernation etc. If they have a good source of natural food, that is probably better for them than any of the things we feed them. Water though is very useful for them, as they cannot always find that in the wild. So a large plant saucer of water would probably be welcome for them. (They are a bit inclined to walk through the water, so a large straight sided saucer is less likely to tip over).

    I find it is useful to give them a bit of food, so that I can keep an eye on them (from a respectful distance), and make sure they are ok, but I normally only leave food out for an hour or two each night, and hope that they are foraging for themselves for the rest of the night. You can encourage them into your garden, as well, by improving the places where their sources of food live, ie. by leaving wood piles, making beetle banks, etc. and not using lawn treatments, slug pellets, etc.

    Cats are usually not a problem to hogs, but some dogs will attack them and can kill, or fatally injure them, so it is always best to beware with dogs.

    Good luck with the hedgehog. Where there is one, there may be more and perhaps you may be honoured by having some hoglets in the garden one day.


    I’m still feeding and someone is eating during the night – I assume/hope it is the hedgehog!
    I think I was leaving too much before, so I reduced the amount. I’ll feed again tonight, but intend not to feed tomorrow (Sunday) night but feed again Monday.
    I’d already started a ‘woodpile’ as you suggested but am adding more to it.

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    Hi Tim

    I hope it is the hedgehog eating the food too – not one of the neighbourhood cats, or maybe you even get foxes where you are?

    It sounds as if you are living in a good place for hogs if there is a wood nearby. I live near a railway and the trackside is fairly wide here and I suspect that some of the hogs come from there. Anything you can do in your garden to encourage more food for them, can only be good. I noticed a few years ago, when I was digging up yet another bit of lawn (!), to plant things and left the turf on the path for a few days, (on its way to the compost) that beetles had already taken up residence. So now I have little mini beetle banks made up upturned turf here and there.

    There have been two hoglets in my garden recently and they seem to be enjoying foraging on the lawn which is a bit longer than usual at the moment, so I am thinking of making it a permanent thing, or part of it anyway.


    I tend to keep my grass cut short. The birds like it and find lots of worms.
    Some years ago I stacked a pile of old lods and rotten wood in a corner of my front garden. I noticed some droppings near there and wandered if it was a hedgehog so started putting out food. Something was eating it but saw cats near there so assumed it was them and gave up.
    Nothing like a true sighting though! I’ve seen a hog twice now in my back garden, and am regularly feeding – someone’s eating it!
    I’m missing out the odd night though so they don’t come to rely on dog food, but I’ve started another wood pile in nearby.

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    Hi Tim

    Good to hear there are lots of worms in your grass! One of my cams caught a hog catching a worm recently. Amazing – that one usually just catches front end or rear end of hogs rushing past! I have also caught on cam a rat catching a worm. Equally fascinating, but not quite so welcome! The wood piles sound brilliant. I tend to feed the hogs every night, but just for an hour or two. They then have the rest of the night to, hopefully, do wild hog things. Just an alternative idea. Your way sounds better in some respects, but you might not get to see the hogs so much. I agree with you – nothing like a true sighting. I was thinking, most of us tend to put log piles, etc. away from the house, when maybe we should actually be putting them near the best viewing area? They don’t have to be untidy to be good bug habitat.


    Tim here, was wondering if hogs like to nest/hibernate in compost heaps. I’m asking this because I have built a wooden box for composting in my garden. For some years now, each spring I dig out the well rotted compost from the bottom layer in the box. After that I climb inside and to collapse the unrotted top layer which I then fork over to give it a good mix. I usually do this in March. I’m worried now that if a hog has decided to hibernate there he’d be in danger from my fork!
    I know mice get in there so there must be a small hole at the back, which by now could be large enough for a hog to get in. Do you think they’d be put off if I added wood ash and mixed that in now?

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    Hi Tim

    Yes, apparently they do sometimes nest in compost heaps. I found the following on the BHPS site.

    … ‘From BHPS. Gardening with Hedgehogs.
    Compost – another ideal place for a hedgehog to make a nest and rear its
    young. Take care when turning the heap; one thrust of a fork can easily
    kill more than one baby hedgehog. The safest time to spread the heap is
    probably Oct/Nov when most babies have left their mum and adults have
    not yet started to hibernate. Partly used bags of compost may also have
    nesting hedgehogs in them.’ ….

    I don’t know about the wood ash. I wouldn’t want to risk it, myself. I would also be slightly worried that some of the males may have already begun to hibernate by Oct/Nov. So I would be careful at any time of the year – there may be other creatures in there as well. Is it possible to do a more careful exploration first? A bit of careful excavating?


    Had a gentle look in the compost bin yesterday. No sign of a hog resting in there. Even better, there were no holes in the rear of the bin where a hog could get in.
    Food is still being eaten although I have not watched recently to make sure its a hog that’s eating it.


    Hi – I have just joined today and have read the interesting thread re feeding hedgehogs
    My husband and I had a sighting of hedgehogs on 2 days running a few weeks ago in mid afternoon and the following day 2 baby ones were having a nap in the shade of some bushes – we live in rural area and our large garden is cottage style with trees shrubs and perennial plants – we have many natural areas with wild flowers and rotting logs etc to encourage wild life
    We have not seen the hedgehog since
    We have not put any food out as we did not know what to feed them on

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    Hi Judith


    One really important thing you could do is make sure there is a plentiful supply of water available. The only slight worry is – if you see hedgehogs out during the day, there may be something wrong with them (for instance dehydration) and they may need help. I am not sure when you say they were having a nap in the shade of some bushes, how open you meant that was. I sometimes see a hog sleeping in a flower bed during the day (mine are quite thickly vegetated!), and would not worry about that, but they would not normally be in a more open place, so that might be something to look out for in the future.

    Whilst improving their habitat is really the most important thing, as I see it, if you do feel you would like to give them some supplementary food then cat/dog food, cat/kitten biscuits or a reputable hedgehog food are currently thought to be best. Whilst they would welcome food at times of need, especially in very dry weather, before and after hibernation, etc. supplementary, is the operative word. They really need to be able to find some wild food for themselves as well, then the less than ideal nature of what we supplementary feed them, becomes less important in terms of content. I tend to only feed for 2 or 3 hours each night (when I am up to watch them) so I can keep an eye on them (from a respectful distance, unless there looks to be a problem). Sounds like you are well on your way to making your garden a good supply of natural food, but one garden is never enough (unless it is enormous, of course) so linking gardens is important.

    Good luck – I hope you see the hedgehogs again – and, perhaps, some of their relatives.


    Had a good night on Saturday night. The hogs came and fed no problem, but last night (Sunday) was horrendous with the cat which I shooed away twice in a few minutes. Eventually it didn’t come back – to my knowledge anyway and this morning the feeding station was empty though just a few scraps were left over which I found surprising as I thought it would all be licked dry, and the water had not been touched. I wonder if the cat clawed the food out, but with difficulty as there is a brick in the way. Just a thought.

    Anyway this morning I’ve adapted the feeding station so the cat cannot even get it’s claw in….if that was the case.


    Hi all,

    Great you are all talking about the hedgies. I have been in touch a lot
    with Nic as well over various subjects. I feel now, with having observed the hedgies for some time I can share a few experiences. I prefer to give the hedgies the hard biscuit type of food. They then can forage for other items
    they eat naturally. I found they dislike the moist type hedgehog food sold in shops. True the food put out does attract other animals but I have yet to see these fearless creatures curl up, except from their own kind e.g. male on male or female on female. We have foxes but they tend to stay in the background and occasionally come forward to take some of the food. They are wary of the plate more than anything. Feral cats come and go here but do not affect the hedgies in any way. Only the odd one stops to test a biscuit or have a drop of water. Certainly our hedgies do not even bother to curl up, when seen with them. Same again with the rats, they live in tandem. Our rats now tend to try to eat the food around the garden before attempting the hedgie house because of its’ enclosure. We have a badger set some quarter of a mile away but have only ever had one visit from one of them. Very fleeting actually as it is too near the house for them. We are surrounded by fields which are mainly occupied by horses and they do not disturb the comings and goings of the hedgies. Foraging deer have also not disturbed them. Some of the other fields are used for maize, wheat etc. It is relatively quite here but the M5 motorway is only a field or so away. This doesn’t seem to deter them either from their activites. At night we experience a fair amount of traffic roar and lights. Even more so once all the leaves have gone from the trees. The main culprit foraging for food are the magpies in the morning. They are usually accompanied by either crows or jackdaws. We have left dog food out occasionally only too see all that devoured at first light. They certainly hoover up anything the hedgies have missed. They even drink what water is left. I have resisted the temptation to put some form of netting over the hedgies eating areas incase it is collapsed by magpies or storms and wind etc. It is also a hazard for other smaller birds who could get trapped in it. I just accept that I am not going to get up before the magpies and the other carrion birds, to bring the food in at dawn. I think it is reasonably fair to accept that all the free roaming or flying creatures are entitled to what is left out there. Hope this helps those who are worried about the hedgies and their predators. I think that most people would get a real buzz out of owning a night digital camera to actually see what goes on in their gardens. They would be surprised by it all.

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